Published 09/28/2017 at 2:17 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff
(Seaside, Oregon) – Razor clamming on the north Oregon coast has been shut down for 16 long, aggravating months, but Clatsop County beaches are about to open it back up again. There’s good and bad news about this, however.
In July 2016, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) closed razor clamming due to high levels of biotoxins found in clams. Every July a closure happens in that county to protect newly set young clams, which runs through September 30. Testing by Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) indicated they were not safe during this whole time – until recently.
Twice a month the agency performs these tests to see if shellfish are safe to eat. The last two samplings on September 22 and 8 found they were in the clear.
Clatsop County beaches are the most popular spot and account for 90 percent of the Oregon coast’s razor clam harvest.
However, it’s not all great news for fans of the clams. ODFW said the annual survey is showing much lower numbers of the delectables, one of the lowest since the surveys began in 2004.
“In 2016, abundance peaked and surveys estimated 16 million razor clams in the 18-mile stretch between the Columbia River south jetty and Tillamook Head,” says Matt Hunter, ODFW’s Shellfish Project Leader. “This year, the estimate is just 3 million clams in that area.”
“These low numbers are troubling, as they mean Clatsop beaches haven’t seen a significant recruitment event for two years,” continued Hunter. “But this recruitment issue is not isolated to just Clatsop beaches. It’s being seen on the entire Oregon coast and for Washington beaches, too.”
It’s a far cry from the record numbers when clamming was last open: back in 2016, most razor clammers reached their daily bag limit of 15 in a short time.
Populations of razor clams operate on cycles; right now it’s on the low end, a swing the other direction from the high abundance period in 2015-16. However, current clams are much bigger, averaging about 4 ½ inches, with only a few clams smaller than 4-inches found. Surveys showed clams distributed sporadically along the entire stretch of the beach.
“While razor clam numbers are lower this year, clams are quite large,” Hunter said. “To be successful, clammers should be diligent, choose the best low tides and actively ‘pound’ to get razors to show.”
As always, the bag limit for razor clams is the first 15 dug, with no sorting or releasing allowed.
ODA tests for shellfish toxins twice per month, as tides permit, and closes seasons with ODFW when toxins reach an unsafe level. Clammers should always call the shellfish hotline (800-448-2474) or check the ODA website before harvesting clams.